How Is Property Divided for Common-law Couples?

How is property divided for common law couples

When a marriage ends, Canadian law states “that the value of any kind of property that was acquired by a spouse during the marriage and still exists at separation must be divided equally between the spouses.” There are other property values that are included and excluded in the calculation of an equalization payment that one spouse may make to another. But those same rights and obligations do not apply to common-law couples.

Property Division

With common-law relationships, generally the property you have at the outset, plus any increase in its value continues to belong to you. This usually also applies to anything you buy with your own money — and that you hold the title to — during the relationship. In the event of separation, neither person has an automatic right to divide or share in the value of anything either one owns.

The property that a common-law couple buys together while in a relationship, however, belongs to both spouses. Therefore, at separation, those shared assets — or their value — will need to be divided.

Because of these rules, it is a good idea to keep any receipts, registrations, and other proof of ownership to cover yourself and to avoid any debates over who owns what.

Claims through Court

If you believe you made a contribution to the “acquisition, preservation or maintenance of property” through financial or non-financial assistance, you may be able to make a case for compensation even if your name is not on the legal title. There are three types of claims you could make to the courts: resulting trust, constructive trust, and unjust enrichment. Each claim has certain requirements that help the courts determine if your spouse benefited at your expense. You could be awarded a share of the property based on the value of your contribution.

Are You Facing a Separation and Property Division?

A reliable Barrie family lawyer can be an invaluable resource during this trying time in your life. Galbraith Family Law has helped countless people like you throughout the property division process and helped them start the next phase of their life the right way.

We’re a certified Collaborative Practice and have been named the top firm in Barrie multiple times. Our legal insights have also been featured in the Globe and Mail, as well as Lawyers Weekly.

To speak to a member of our staff, click here.


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Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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